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Baugur, Jóhannesson Indicted in Tax Probe

Icelandic retail group Baugur and its executive U.K. chairman Jón Asgeir Jóhannesson have been indicted on charges of tax evasion.

LONDON — Icelandic retail group Baugur and its executive U.K. chairman Jón Asgeir Jóhannesson have been indicted on charges of tax evasion as part of an ongoing investigation into the company’s books.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Baugur, which has stakes in companies including Saks Fifth Avenue, Matthew Williamson and French Connection, confirmed Icelandic wire reports that Jóhannesson and the company were issued an indictment by the country’s acting state prosecutor.

The indictment refers to tax returns from 1999-2003, inclusive, when Jóhannesson is alleged to have “miscounted taxable earnings,” according to the reports.

“The Icelandic authorities have issued an indictment against the Baugur Group and its executive U.K. chairman for alleged tax law violations,” a Baugur statement said. “The case is merely a continuation of the Baugur case, which has now been going on for six years and for which Jón Asgeir has been cleared twice.

“The board of Baugur continue to support its U.K. chairman, and together we will take necessary steps to resolve the situation. We would also like to reiterate the indictment will have no impact on Baugur’s operations.”

Helgi Magnus Gunnarsson, the public prosecutor at Iceland’s economic crime unit who handed out the indictment, did not return phone calls Friday.

In June, Iceland’s Supreme Court in Reykjavik upheld a conviction against Jóhannesson for wrongdoing in bookkeeping. Jóhannesson was found guilty along with his former chief executive officer, Tryggvi Jónsson, and a former business associate, Jón Gerald Sullenberger.

However, the court rejected several other charges prosecutors had brought against Jóhannesson, including fraud, embezzlement and misleading the market by wrong statements to the stock exchange. Jóhannesson had appealed against the conviction earlier this year.

Over the past six years, he has been dogged by charges of fraud in Iceland, which were resolved with the high court’s verdict. However, Gunnarsson said Friday he is investigating pressing separate tax fraud charges relating to Baugur and Jóhannesson.